With the most recent Woody Allen film To Rome With Love getting a thorough panning from critics, it is a good time to ask, are films by "auteur" directors works of high cinematic art or simply dull and boring?
The term auteur, is French for “author”. It refers to a director whose films have a distinct style, tone and an ensemble of regular cast members.
Whilst the production of a film involves hundreds of people, films by auteurs are the ones where the personality of the director will always shine through as the film's strongest influence.
Perhaps the most famous director to be labelled an auteur was Alfred Hitchcock.
Woody Allen creates distinctly European films that focus on the tangled relationships between neurotic protagonists. Throw in some extra complications and humour and you have the basic characteristics of his work. But is it fair to slate Allen for staying true to his self-styled genre?
Let’s take look at some other auteurs to get a better perspective:
Anyone who has seen at least three Wes Anderson films will have noticed similarities in style. While the plots vary in The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and Rushmore, they all boil down to few key components:
The visual style
Scene change, colours and camera moves all come under the visual heading. These are very similar in all of Anderson's movies.
Family is his big topic, with all of his plots built around families or friends who serve as family replacements.
And of course there are the cast members; Anderson loves his recurring actors, most notably Bill Murray, Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman.
Would people claim Anderson is getting boring and predictable? Absolutely! But let’s throw another director into the mix...
Lynch has directed some remarkable films. Although they aren't always easy to grasp on the first viewing!
His trademark style is heavy symbolism.
Anyone who has seen Mullholand Dr. might be confused by the fact that nothing makes sense. That's until you read an essay explaining the meaning of seemingly simple things, like smiling people, a blue box and a hot dog in the background...
Still, it would be hard to argue that Lynch hasn’t got a distinct style. After watching a few of his movies, it becomes habit not take anything at face value.
These are only a few examples of auteur directors. The fact of the matter is that we should not mix up the predictable with personal style.
Allen has cut it fine with To Rome With Love. Vicky, Christina, Barcelona is still fresh in people’s memories and it is hard not to consider them as the same film, albeit one set in Spain and the other in Italy.
But isn't there something comforting in seeing exactly what you expect?
I really enjoy Allen, Anderson and, sometimes, even Lynch films. This isn't because I like watching predictable things but because I like their filming style. Providing you like the style, then I can't see any harm in auteurs and their trademark touches.
Image via: Luiz Fernando Reis’ Flickr